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A/N: For those who might be wondering, this is a sequel (of sorts) to Red Hair and a Beater's Bat; reading it is not necessary to understand the story, but it does provide some background information to the character.
She sat, nose pressed against the cold windowpane as she watched the rain fall like rivers on the other side. The world outside was cold, grey and wet, and an unseen foreboding had settled across the land that seemed to dim the very colours of the summer flowers in the garden.
Athena Selwyn knew the worst had not yet begun.
It had been six weeks since Albus Dumbledore had fallen, six weeks since the Dark Lord’s forces had infiltrated the castle she had once believed safe, six weeks since she herself had nearly died fighting for the Order of the Phoenix.
And yet for her, the past seemed preferable to the future. The Death Eaters were growing, not just in number but in power and influence. The Ministry of Magic, the Order of the Phoenix, they were on the back foot, defending, not attacking. She knew it. With Dumbledore gone, it would only be a matter of time before the Ministry fell and the entire world plunged into darkness.
She held little faith in Harry Potter, her automatic contempt for any who achieved at a lower level than her standing in the way of her ability to believe in him. Nevertheless, she understood his importance. He was a beacon of hope, however small, and though she would not subscribe to the belief that his being the Boy Who Lived meant he was the wizarding world’s saviour, she would do her duty as part of the Order to protect him.
Athena caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window and found herself staring at it. She had not changed in the last few months. Hair, just as long and deep red as ever. Eyes, still as blue and piercing as ever. Skin, still as pale as ever. But she felt different. She was different. She had seen war and seen death, though she dwelt not on the memory of it. Somehow, when she had left Hogwarts six weeks ago, she had left behind her identity as a student, even though she would return for her seventh year in September. Because the student Athena stayed up late writing essays, walked the corridors at night as a Prefect on duty, stressed about exams as if they were the end of the world. Those days were over, and in their place…what?
She turned from the window, crossing the room and absently running her hand along the spines of rows of leatherbound books upon the shelves. Reading would be futile; she was too restless to concentrate.
“Are you going to an Order meeting tonight?” her sister Artemis asked, entering the room.
“I think so.”
“At the Weasleys’ place?”
“Can I come?”
“It’s not up to me,” she replied, though she knew Artemis wasn’t asking for permission, more to back up her request to their parents.
“I know that. But they listen to you, and they don’t listen to me.”
“That’s not true. What do you want to go for anyway?”
“Because I’m bored shitless here,” Artemis replied with sudden vehemence, kicking at a piece of parchment lying on the floor. “I’m not allowed anywhere by myself, I can’t Apparate anyway, and half my friends have closed off their Floo Networks because their parents are too paranoid about You-Know-Who.”
“You’re not the only one,” Athena replied.
“At least you have Cassian,” Artemis pointed out sulkily, referring to Athena’s boyfriend.
“Don’t you have Perseus?”
“He falls into the category of those with paranoid parents whose Floo Networks have been closed off.”
“Oh.” That, at least, explained Artemis’ foul mood over the past several days. “Do you want to see him?”
“What do you think?”
“Just confirming what I already knew. I could take you there, Side-Along Apparition.”
Artemis’ eyes widened at this proposal from her normally law-abiding sister. “But you’re not allowed to take me, you haven’t had your licence for a full year yet.”
“I highly doubt the Ministry’s going to come after a seventeen year old for Apparating with a passenger when they’ve got Death Eaters on the loose killing people. There are some advantages in times of war, and I intend to make the most of them.”
“I’ll come!” Artemis said excitedly. “Wait, give me fifteen minutes, I have to do my hair, and get changed, and everything—” She bolted from the room.
Athena watched her go with mild amusement. It had been a long time since she had bothered about her appearance around Cassian; he had seen her at her worst, lying half-dead in the hospital wing at Hogwarts, and such trivialities were usually below her anyway.
She was going to see him tomorrow. It had only been a few days since she was last at his house, but those few days had dragged by, and she missed him more than she cared to admit. She dreaded returning to Hogwarts; he was a year ahead of her and had finished school, and she wouldn’t see him for months on end.
“Ready,” Artemis declared, poking her head around the doorframe. “Come on, come on, let’s go.”
Shaken from her thoughts, Athena seized her cloak from the kitchen table and strode across the courtyard of the house, head ducked against the rain. She felt strangely nervous; she had never Side-Along Apparated anyone before, and she didn’t know whether there was any special procedure. What if she Splinched Artemis?
“You won’t Splinch me, will you?” Artemis asked, as if reading her mind. It was an unsettling thought; Athena was an Occlumens for a reason.
“I’ll endeavour not to,” she replied crisply, reaching the gate and lifting the latch, cautiously looking both ways across the street. The fence served as the property boundary of Selwyn House, and here the many security charms ceased to take effect.
“Endeavour not to?” Artemis repeated, following her out of the gate without a moment’s hesitation. “That’s not exactly comforting.”
“Honesty is my policy, not comfort. Grab my arm.”
With Artemis tightly gripping her arm, Athena turned on the spot, Disapparating with a loud crack and arriving in the middle of the street outside a modest-looking wooden house with a white picket fence and garden.
“Hold it,” Athena said sharply as Artemis made to run towards the house. “How are you getting home?”
“I hadn’t thought about that.”
“Evidently not.” Athena glanced quickly up and down the street; standing in the open was making her uneasy, and the gloom of the rainy late afternoon wasn’t helping matters. “When do you think you’ll be done here?”
“What’s the time now?”
“Twenty past four.”
“And Mum and Dad will be home at around six.”
“They’ll be working late tonight, they’re going straight from work to the Weasleys’. The meeting starts at seven, I can come and get you at quarter to, and you can sit at home and pretend you haven’t been anywhere.”
“Deal,” Artemis replied hurriedly, and jogged across the road. “You’re the best, you know that?” she called over her shoulder.
“Oh, I do,” Athena replied. “You don’t get an ego as big as mine without knowing such things.”
“Our plans to move Harry have fallen through,” Mad-Eye Moody said abruptly, seated in the kitchen of the Burrow. “Pius Thicknesse has gone over—”
“Changed all the laws on us,” Athena’s father Carcius said. “One can now be thrown in Azkaban for connecting Privet Drive to the Floo Network, Apparating in and out of the property or setting up a Portkey. Our hands are tied.”
“They are not,” Athena said impatiently. “There are plenty of other ways to get him out.”
“And what might they be?” Moody asked.
“Well, he’ll still have the Trace on him. So we could go all Muggle and drive him out—”
“You’re onto something,” Remus Lupin agreed. “But not for Harry, it’s too risky. For the Dursley family. I imagine they’d be much happier in a car anyway.”
“We’ll need some Order members to accompany the Dursleys,” Moody said. “Any volunteers?”
“I’ll go,” Dedalus Diggle offered. “Hestia, will you come too?”
Hestia Jones nodded.
“Good, that’s sorted,” Moody said abruptly. “So how will we get Potter out?”
“Fly him,” Fred Weasley suggested.
“Oh, I dunno. Maybe with one of those whatchamacallits—broomsticks, that’s the one!”
“Just going to fly over there and hand Potter a broomstick, Weasley?” Moody asked.
“Obviously there are a few more details to be worked out, Alastor,” Carcius said patiently. “But I don’t see why it couldn’t work.”
“Disillusionment Charms,” Athena said suddenly. “We could at least fly to Privet Drive under cover of Disillusionment Charms, obviously they’ll break on contact with the boundary of the property and we can’t recast them, but at least they can get us there virtually undetected.”
“We’re going with broomsticks, then,” Moody said.
“What about those of us who can’t fly?” asked Hermione Granger pointedly.
“Thestrals,” Reubus Hagrid boomed from the corner. “Whole lotta them out in the forest at Hogwarts. Tame as anything, we can ride them.”
“One small problem,” Moody interrupted. “How are we going to get Potter out of there? Even if we leak a false trail to the Death Eaters regarding the date, they’ll still have a few scouts around the place even now. We’ll be flying straight into them.”
“Wha’ if,” Mundungus Fletcher began with a loud belch, “Wha’ if there are so many Potters, the Death Eaters dunno who the real one is?”
“Polyjuice Potion,” Hermione whispered.
“And have them after us all?” Athena asked.
“And what do you suggest, Selwyn?” Moody asked, turning to her. “If you don’t want to risk your pretty little neck—”
“Don’t talk to my daughter like that,” Carcius said sharply.
“Dad, I can handle it. It doesn’t make sense, does it? How will having multiple Harrys help us evade Death Eaters and get him out?”
“They won’t know which ones to chase after, see,” Dung said with a toothy grin. “And unless them Death Eaters got wind of when we’re movin’ ‘im and got the whole lot of ‘em out waiting, they couldn’t chase us all. We just gotta make sure they don’t chase the real one, is all.”
“They’ll expect the real Harry to be on a broomstick,”Athena said thoughtfully. “And with the most powerful Aurors. So, we put him with…”
“Hagrid,” Moody finished.
“Me,” Hagrid said. “Wait, what?”
“Still got that motorbike, Reubus?” Dad asks.
“Well, yeah, sure, but—”
“Potter can go in the sidecar.”
Hagrid looked a bit gobsmacked, shaking his head slightly. “I won’t let ye down, Alastor,” he said determinedly to Moody. “Harry’ll be safe with me, I’ve taken ‘im before.”
“Sixteen years ago,” Carcius muttered.
Athena rapped sharply on the bars of the towering wrought-iron gate in front of her with her wand, and almost instantly the cool voice of Rhiannon Avitus-Rutherford issued forth.
“Good morning, please state your name and business.”
“Athena Selwyn, here to see Cassian.”
“Athena!” the voice said with sudden warmth. “Honestly, he’s done nothing but mope around all day since you were last here, come in, quickly.”
The gates sprang open and Athena suppressed a smile at the thought of Cassian missing her, striding up the long driveway that lead from the gate to the front door of the grand Rutherford Manor. It was always so peaceful here; the sun shining down on the expansive lawns and neat rows of flowerbeds that lined the driveway. It was easy to forget about the war entirely; especially with the entire Avitus-Rutherford family so neutral; in her own family there was her and her Auror parents, all members of the Order of the Phoenix, but Cassian’s family seemed to regard the war as only a distant threat. She had a feeling she was Cassian’s only link to the reality of the Dark Lord’s strength.
A slim, pretty girl with long brown hair and a shining face opened the front door.
“Athena!” she squealed happily, throwing her arms around her.
“Evelina,” she returned, grinning in spite of herself at Cassian’s little sister’s enthusiasm. She’d only known her for six months, but Evelina already saw Athena as an older sister figure, an arrangement she was strangely pleased with.
“Oh, thank Merlin,” Rhiannon’s voice said from the hallway. She came into view, regal and sophisticated as ever. “Athena, do you think you could go upstairs and encourage my son to rejoin the human race? We’ve barely seen him at all these last few days.”
“That’s not like him,” Athena said with a frown.
“Dad says the Department of Magical Education says NEWT results should be out this week,” Evelina said. “Ever since he heard that he’s been pacing around the house not talking to anyone.”
“…I take it back, that is very like him. Honestly, I don’t think even I can help.”
“He said yesterday, and I quote, ‘I’m not leaving this room unless it’s for results, Athena, or food,’” Rhiannon said wryly.
“I like how I’m second to results,” Athena commented with a roll of her eyes. “I’ll go find him.”
She ascended the stairs, making her way to Cassian’s room and knocking on the door.
“Are NEWT results here?” a frantic voice responded from inside.
“No, but I am.”
“I know I’m not as exciting as a parchment of exam results,” she said wryly, “But you’ll have to make do.”
The door swung open and Cassian was standing there in a set of plain dark green robes, his long dark hair messy and his expression frazzled. Athena looked at him thoughtfully, purposely ignoring his mental state.
“I’ve never seen you with your hair out.”
“You haven’t?” he asked absently, taking her hand and bringing her into the room.
“No. God, you look worse than you did before exams.”
“At least I could do something before exams,” he said anxiously. “Like studying. There’s nothing I can do now. Nothing but wait, and try and pass the time.” He began pacing the room, until Athena seized both his hands and stopped him. She couldn’t help but feel a little irritated that he was thinking more about his results than her; although his dedication to schoolwork was one of the things that had made her fall in love with him in the first place, at this point she would rather she was the focus of his attention, as he was hers.
“They’re coming out tomorrow,” she said exasperatedly. “My dad works in the Ministry as well, OWL and NEWT results are coming out tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” Cassian repeated, looking alarmed. “Shit. What if I’ve failed?”
She regarded him coolly. “Cassian Avitus-Rutherford, Dux of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry 1997, there is no way on Earth you would have failed anything, and furthermore—”
She cut herself off, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him. She lived for these moments as his arms wrapped around her and everything else in the world faded away, when she wanted nothing more than to be close to him; if she did nothing else for the rest of her life she would die happy.
“Stay here tonight,” Cassian said quietly as they broke apart.
“Stay here tonight,” he repeated.
“What for?” she asked sharply.
“Not what you’re thinking, don’t worry,” he said immediately. “But if results are coming out tomorrow, I won’t be sleeping, and if you could keep me company, that would be amazing.”
“My parents would never agree.”
“Your dad doesn’t trust me.”
“Not in the slightest,” she replied honestly.
“And how much of that mistrust is caused directly by my Sorting into Slytherin?”
“About ninety-five percent. The rest is caused by showing romantic interest in me.”
“So he trusted Fred Weasley?”
“Because he’s a Gryffindor.”
“And he would have been much happier if you had stayed with Fred Weasley and never even met me.”
“I need to talk to him.”
“Not a good idea.”
“I’ve done nothing to make him mistrust me, and I can’t stand the idea of someone having a falsely negative impression of me any more than you do.”
She inclined her head slightly. “Fair point,” she conceded, “But I still don’t think you’re going to get anywhere. I’d be better off telling him I’m staying at, I dunno, Katya’s or Lydia’s or something.”
“You would lie,” he said slowly, “To your father, for me?”
“I could die tomorrow night,” she told him sharply, before instantly regretting it.
“Forget I said anything.”
“Why could you die tomorrow night?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“You’re going on a mission for the Order, aren’t you?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“And who am I supposed to tell?” he asked pointedly. “I’m under Unbreakable Vow, or have you forgotten that?”
“I don’t need reminding,” she said quietly.
“Athena,” he began, gripping her shoulders and looking at her intently. “Six weeks ago I dragged you unconscious from a corridor full of Death Eaters and watched as you nearly died. Don’t put me through that again.”
“I won’t,” she replied, offering a small smile. “I’ve gotten much better at using my wand with my left hand.”
“How can you be so flippant about this?”
“Because if I’m not, I’ll back out. And I can’t do that,” she interrupted, cutting him off before his words had a chance to form, “Because I have a duty to the Order and I am not going to hide away in my house and sit this war out.”
“But what happens if you get hit again?” he whispered. “What happens if you’re not lucky enough this—”
“What?” He had suddenly released her, swiftly running one hand through his hair and pacing back and forth.
“Luck. Liquid luck. Felix Felicis, I can brew it up, come on!” He seized her hand, breaking into a run as he towed her out of the room and thundered down the stairs.
“I’ve never attempted it before,” he said hurriedly, “But we have the recipe for it in an old Potions book in the library, I’ve seen it, I remember seeing it when I was ten years old and thinking nobody in the world could make such a difficult potion but it can’t be that hard, not for me…” He leapt down the final few stairs, wheeling around and sprinting down the hallway, Athena close on his heels.
“Here it is!” he said triumphantly, pulling an old leatherbound book from a shelf and dropping it with a thud on a nearby table. Athena gazed around the room; it was oddly shaped, at least ten sides, all lined with gleaming wooden shelves lined with books. Piles of parchment stood stacked on a small table, and an enchanted fire in the corner gave off no heat in the warmth of summer.
“It looks like the Ravenclaw common room,” she observed.
“So it does,” Cassian agreed, leafing through the book. “Aha! Fantastic! Excellent! Brilliant!”
“The potion. It doesn’t require any standing or steeping time, it’s just straight through, from start to finish. Nine hours. Allow ten, maybe eleven because this is my first time brewing it…I could get it done overnight, easily. I have most of the ingredients but we’ll have to go to Diagon Alley for a few…Stay up with me tonight. Please.”
Both Athena’s parents were home when she called in shortly after four.
“I’m staying the night at Katya’s,” she informed them.
“Katya Prewett?” Lucinda asked.
“The very same.”
“How are you getting there?”
“Apparating, they’ve closed off their Floo.”
Carcius looked at her sternly. “Apparate as close to the gate or door as you can. Look around you in every direction before you leave the enchantments around our house or hers. Don’t go out at night, don’t go to Diagon Alley, just…don’t go anywhere. And get some sleep, you’ll need it.”
“Got it, see you guys in the morning.”
“Wait,” Lucinda said. “A word, please.” She followed Athena out into the hallway, checked to make sure Carcius wasn’t around, and said in a whisper, “You’re not going to Katya’s, are you?”
“No, I’m not.”
“Then I’m trusting you to be sensible, and I’m trusting Cassian to respect that sensibility. And I hope I’m correct in assuming there’s a better reason for you lying to your father than an all-night snogging session.”
“He’s making me Felix Felicis for tomorrow night and NEWT results come out in the morning.”
“Felix Felicis?” Lucinda looked impressed. “You’ve got a good man there, and don’t let your father tell you otherwise.”
“Oh, I know,” Athena assured her. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“Integrity, Athena,” Lucinda called as she disappeared out the door.
“How did it go?” Cassian asked when she rejoined him in the potion room of Rutherford Manor.
“Good. Dad thinks I’m staying at Katya’s, Mum knows I’m here.”
“Your mum sounds fantastic.”
“She’s all right,” Athena replied. “So, what’s the time, half past four. Are we getting started now?”
“No, we’re going to Diagon Alley before the apothecary closes. Got a few things to pick up.”
They Apparated into the centre of Diagon Alley. It was deserted, as it had been for a good year or so; only a few wizards hurried this way and that, heads down and Disapparating as quickly as they could. The only colour came from the purple Ministry posters that lined the shop windows, tattered and torn by time. The displays in the Daily Prophet office proclaimed the day’s headline: OWL AND NEWT RESULTS OUT TOMORROW, and Cassian turned a delicate shade of green.
“Keep moving, nothing you didn’t know already,” Athena said impatiently, towing him behind her. “Apothecary, apothecary, apothecary. Here we go!”
The shop was small, dark and dingy, but it was open, one of very few stores in the Alley that was. Athena crossed the threshold, glancing at the array of jars, bottles and packages on the shelf, and realising she had no idea what she was looking for.
“Athena!” a familiar voice called happily, and she turned to see her best friend, Nathaniel Weasley, behind the counter of the shop.
“Nathaniel!” she returned. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
“Holiday job,” he explained. “Only started a couple of weeks ago, it’s fascinating, I’ve learned so much already—”
“All right,” she interrupted before he could get started on a Potions-related tangent. “Isn’t it a bit…I don’t know…eerie, here?”
“Oh, yeah. Hardly anyone comes in, and I’ve seen a few Death Eaters, they come in with their masks late in the evening, I’ve never had any trouble with them, they haven’t tried to attack me or anything…I mean, they steal the stock, most of them, but I was told before I started to never approach them, they might kill me otherwise, I just send an owl off to the Ministry as soon as they leave, it doesn’t help much, but it’s procedure.” He stopped to take a deep breath, and continued, “So what brings you here?”
“Ingredients,” she replied vaguely.
“Yes, but for what?”
She glanced furtively around the room. “Felix Felicis, don’t ask questions I can’t answer.”
“So I guess why you need Felix Felicis falls into that category?”
“Ever brewed it before?” Nathaniel asked, directing this question at Cassian, who was approaching the counter with an armload of ingredients.
“First time,” he replied, dumping the ingredients on the counter.
“Fiddly potion,” Nathaniel observed, adding up the price. “I haven’t tried it either, though I keep intending to. Shame I can’t use it for NEWTs thisyear.”
“Don’t mention NEWTs around him,” Athena advised.
“Career options depending on your results?” Nathaniel asked sympathetically.
“Yeah,” Cassian replied, raking a hand through his hair. “Yeah, it’s make or break, really. Results out tomorrow.”
“You’re going to be fun tonight,” Athena commented sardonically.
“Ooh, what’s happening tonight?” Nathaniel asked. “Are you spending the night with him, Athena? Scandal!”
She glared belligerently at him. “Yes, making that potion.”
“Potion making, is that what they call it these days?” The smirk on his face vanished as he eyed the wand now pointed at his chest. “Sorry, sorry. Inappropriate, I know you wouldn’t.”
“Nathaniel, mate, can I just ask you something?” Cassian asked suddenly.
He glanced at Athena. “Uh, in private? Sorry, babe. Man to man, and…stuff.”
“Don’t call me that,” she said dismissively, already walking out of the shop. Cassian and Nathaniel would normally have no cause to talk to each other, so evidently, it was about her. She resisted the urge to eavesdrop, instead wandering down the alley.
“Afternoon, miss,” a voice drawled, and she turned to see a grubby old wizard in cheap, gaudy robes following her, a distinctive leer on his face as he pushed a small trolley in front of him.
“Yes, it is. Observant of you.”
“Bit dangerous, wand’rin round the alley alone when it’s gettin’ dark.”
“As you can tell, I’m quaking in my boots.”
“Death Eaters about an’ all,” he continued, his teeth glinting as he smiled. “I got charms here, charms, amulents, shields, anythin’ you like, keep yer pretty self safe from Dark magic.”
She arched one eyebrow contemptuously. “Really. It may be a foreign concept to a withered old Squib like yourself, but I flatter myself in thinking my skill and ability in Defence Against the Dark Arts can keep my, as you say, ‘pretty self’ safe from Dark magic. If you don’t leave me in peace, perhaps I can show you the extent of that ability.” She brandished her wand, and the wizard scuttled away.
“Well,” she observed quietly to herself, “That was fun.”
“So what did you want to talk to Nathaniel about?” Athena asked curiously.
“Just some stuff,” Cassian replied vaguely.
“Me, in other words.”
“We may have mentioned you.”
“Asking his help in something, were you?”
“Don’t ask questions I can’t answer,” he replied easily, using words she had told him many times.
“Can’t answer, or won’t answer?”
“With you it means the same thing.”
Athena shrugged dismissively, turning her attention to the potions book lying open on the table. “So when are we getting started?”
“After dinner,” Cassian replied. “I want to be able to go straight through from start to finish, I can’t afford to leave it for half an hour. Ever pulled an all-nighter before?”
“Not even once?”
She paused to consider the question. “No. Late nights, but never all night.”
“Then tonight should be fun,” he said with a grin. “I feel like a kid, this is exciting. You know what we need? Butterbeer.”
“Do you have any?”
“Somewhere. I’ll track it down after dinner. We’ll need food as well, breakfast is a long way off.”
“There are three stages to an all-nighter,” Cassian informed her as they gathered potion ingredients after dinner. “Stage one, concentration. In the best cases it lasts for a few hours, maybe until shortly before midnight. Stage two, silliness. That’s the fun bit when you’re overtired. Stage three, crashing. Usually kicks in about four in the morning.”
“You speak from experience?”
“Definitely. I wasn’t Dux for nothing, you know.”
“Oh, I definitely know that.” The image of Cassian stalking the corridors late at night before exams reciting notes and muttering profanities under his breath was not one that would go away quickly.
“Looking forward to the silliness stage,” she commented, grinning. “I can’t say I’ve ever seen you in that state before.”
“Likewise. Haven’t seen you, that is.”
“Silliness is not in my nature.”
“We shall see, my love, we shall see.”
The night progressed much like Cassian had predicted; they started out intent on the task, and barely a word was spoken between them until midnight as they measured, chopped, crushed and simmered an array of ingredients. After that, there was little for Athena to do. She strolled around the room, helping herself to the food and wondering if it was too early to start clearing things away. Then she sat down behind Cassian, plaited his hair, proclaimed that he looked like a girl and insisted on calling him Cassie.
“May I remind you,” Cassian pointed out mildly, “That you’re the one who finds me attractive, and now you’re saying I look like a girl.”
“Not really. You don't look like a girl, you just have very feminine hair.”
“You’re the one who plaited it.”
“So I did,” she observed. “Doesn’t suit you, I think I’ll take it out.”
“Oh, shut it. I’m still completely aware of what I’m doing. It’s two in the morning, and I don’t even feel tired.”
There was a brief moment of silence.
“I could be living under a bridge in six months time,” Cassian said glumly. “If I fail my NEWTs. I could be living with trolls, and compared to me, they’ll seem highly qualified. I could be living with trolls in a few hours, in fact. Trolls, big fat Ts on a piece of parchment.”
“You’re a downer when you’re tired.”
“But trolls!” He stirred the potion broodingly.
“What would you rather,” Athena said thoughtfully, handing him a small vial of pomegranate juice, “Fail all your NEWTs, or have me break up with you?”
“The second, I’d win you back.”
“But what if you couldn’t?”
“We both know you couldn’t live without me.”
“It’s a hypothetical situation, answer the question.”
“Then I’d fail my NEWTs.”
Cassian rolled his eyes. “No, Athena. I’d give my life for you, but not my grades. Merlin’s beard.”
“Wait. You’d give your life for me?”
“Haven’t we been over that?” he asked, looking puzzled.
She shook her head.
“Oh. Well, I would,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“And I’d do the same for you,” Athena returned, concentrating intently on the potion in front of her.
“I love you.”
“I would certainly hope so,” she said, still not moving her gaze from the potion.
“Do you think they’ll take over?” he asked quietly, and she turned sharply to him, surprised by the change in subject.
“Yes.” There was a finality in that word, a finality she hadn’t yet acknowledged aloud, and suddenly everything was made real again; the mission the next night, the war, the Dark Lord, the reason for the potion bubbling away in front of her…
“How much do you love me?”
“How far is it from the east to the west?” she responded, glancing sideways at him and hoping he wasn’t going to suggest what she thought he was.
“We don’t know if we’ll make it through this war alive. Hell, you could die tomorrow.”
“Thanks for that reminder,” she replied. He was going to suggest it. She couldn’t pretend she wasn’t disappointed with him.
“This could be the last time we’re together.”
“I’m not sleeping with you,” she said sharply.
He looked legitimately taken aback. “I wasn’t going to suggest it. I know you better than that, and you know me better than that.”
“What did you mean, then?” she asked, embarrassed.
“I just wanted to ask…I mean, not properly or anything, but just to ascertain your thoughts on…just throwing the idea out there…the prospect of maybe sometime…obviously in the future…uh…marrying me.”
“Who else would I marry?” she asked, perfectly aware her matter-of-fact response was nothing like what he was expecting.
“Oh. Right. Ah, excellent point. I just didn’t know your thoughts on marriage in general…”
“To be perfectly honest, neither do I.”
“You know I’m old-fashioned. My morals and values are out of another century…”
“Part of the reason we belong together.”
“Yes, but, at the same time…it just…the thought of being someone else, not being me, am I making any sense? My identity always being tied to yours. It’s a struggle for me to even be in a relationship…Don’t look at me like that, you know it’s true.”
Cassian sighed. He didn’t know whether her fiece independent streak was something he loved or hated in Athena, but considering all the problems it had already caused in their relationship, he was leaning more towards the latter. She hated being tied down. Not because of commitment issues, she was as committed to him as he was to her—or at least, that was the impression he got—but because she was so dead scared of anyone else having control or influence over her. He had done everything in his power to make her trust him, and to her credit, she had tried as well—but he knew there was always a part of her that would trust no one but herself.
Athena shuffled closer, wrapping her arms around him and leaning her head against his shoulder.
“I’m not going to stop trying though,” she said softly.
“Cassian?” Rhiannon called, appearing in the doorway of the potion room. “There’s an owl from the Ministry.”
“NEWTs!” he cried in a voice halfway between horror and elation, leaping to his feet and bolting down the hallway.
Rhiannon turned to Athena with a shrug. “I hope for all our sakes that’s what it is,” she commented mildly. “How are you this morning, Athena?”
“Tired. I’m not used to all-nighters.”
“I can’t say I am either.”
“YES!” Cassian’s voice came from the kitchen. “Yes yes yes!”
“He passed,” Rhiannon affirmed.
“Four Outstandings!” Cassian greeted them when they walked into the kitchen, waving a piece of paper in the air. “Do you know how hard it is even to pass?” He bounded across the room, kissed Athena and headed for the door.
“Going to the Ministry!” he called, and was gone.
Bewildered, Athena stared at the doorway he had just Disapparated from.
“He must be applying for a job,” Rhiannon commented. “He’s keeping it all very hush-hush, but he’s got one in mind, and apparently he’s now qualified for it.”
In the time it took Athena to eat breakfast and retrieve the Felix Felicis from the potion room, Cassian had returned triumphant.
“Archives,” he announced. “I’ve just been accepted as the historian in the Archives Office at the Ministry.”
“Congratulations,” Rhiannon said proudly. “We’ll have to have some people here for dinner tonight to celebrate—can you make it, Athena?”
“No, I can’t, sorry…I’m busy tonight.”
“Oh, that’s a shame. We’ll have to have you and your parents around sometime…I knew your mother at Hogwarts, I haven’t seen her for years.”
“Yeah, definitely. I should probably get home…”
Cassian was silent as he walked her down the long walkway to the gate, and Athena felt bad about taking the excitement of his new job away from him.
“I’ll be fine,” she said. “I’ve got the Felix Felicis. It kept the others safe when the Death Eaters came—they didn’t even have that much. When do you start at the Ministry?”
“Next week. I’ll be an intern of sorts for the first month or so, but Grandad’s planning on retiring at the end of August, so I’ll take over.”
“Very good pay,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “I’ll be able to buy us a house within a year.”
“No need,” she told him. “I inherit Selwyn House.”
“And I inherit Rutherford Estate,” he replied with a wave of his hand, “But I don’t want to kick my parents out too soon.”
“Yeah, fair point.”
“I want to live in Godric’s Hollow, I’ve decided,” he proclaimed. “So much history.”
“Yes. Godric’s Hollow. Definitely.” She grinned at him. “A Slytherin living in Godric Gryffindor’s hometown. Oh, the irony.”
“We just won’t tell the neighbours.”
“You look happy,” Artemis said in an almost accusatory tone when Athena arrived home.
“Yeah,” she said matter-of-factly. “Good night with the girls.”
Artemis narrowed her eyes. “You don’t have girls’ nights. I know, because you told me. You told me the closest you get is when we stay up all night the first night of every holidays pigging out on Honeydukes stuff and gossiping. Besides, you’re really happy.”
“Is Dad home?” she asked.
“No, he’s at work. Don’t change the subject.”
“I wasn’t,” she replied. Normally she would tell Artemis to bugger off and mind her own business, but she had a strange need to actually be sisterly with her sister. “We should go to my room.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Artemis declared, skipping ahead and bounding onto Athena’s bed. “So, spill.”
“I was at Cassian’s,” she began.
Artemis’s eyes grew wide. “Athena!” she whispered in a shocked voice. “Did you…you know?”
“No, I did not,” she replied crisply. “Let’s make that abundantly clear.”
“So, what did you do?”
“Made Felix Felicis,” she said, pulling the vial from her robes and tossing it onto the bed for Artemis to inspect. “I mentioned what the Order’s doing tonight. He freaked, and spent all night brewing this for me.”
“Awww!” she cooed, picking up the bottle. “That is so cute. So you just brewed potion all night?” she asked, sounding disappointed.
“You said it, not me.” Artemis set the potion down. “So, is that why you’re so happy? You have liquid luck, and you spent the night over a cauldron with Lord Rutherford?”
“Don’t call him that.”
“That’s what he looks like. Like an 18th century aristocrat.”
“Just because he has long hair.”
“And manners. Anyway, you didn’t answer my question.”
“I bet you spent half your time snogging, and you’re too refined to admit it.”
“There wasn’t actually that much involved.”
“Sure.” Artemis hopped off the bed. “When are you guys going to the Burrow for your Harry-rescuing business?”
“I think we’re meeting there at eight.”
Disclaimer: Credit, as always, goes to JK Rowling for her brilliance/the events of this chapter.
“I don’t need to run over this again, do I?” Mad-Eye called to the assembled Order members. “We Disillusion ourselves. You follow me to Potter’s house. We talk more when we get there. You fly by broomstick, and if you can’t fly, you ride a Thestral. Any questions?”
There was a general murmur of assent and Athena picked up her broomstick.
“Nice broom,” Fred observed, coming along beside her.
“Thank you. Dad gave it to me for Christmas last year.”
“Lucky. How was playing Chaser last year?”
“Good. Took a bit of getting used to, but I got far less injuries.”
“Quidditch is no fun without injuries,” he said with a wave of his hand.
“Granted,” she conceded, raising her wand and casting a Disillusionment Charm on herself.
“It’s not Quidditch without a—you’re not here anymore.”
“I’m still here.”
“I forgot how good you are at those. Can you do mine?”
She obliged, rapping him sharply on the head with her wand, and he vanished from sight.
“Whoa, where did I go? Hey George, check it out, I’m invisible!”
“You are not,” George responded, jabbing him in the ribs.
“Quit fooling around,” Moody barked. “Weasley, why aren’t you Disillusioned?”
“I’d never be disillusioned with the Order, Mad-Eye, you should know that.” George sauntered away, casting his own charm as he did so.
Athena had done some weird things in her life, but being Harry Potter definitely took the cake.
“It’s one of those things that if you think about it, it scares you,” Hermione whispered, absently cleaning the pair of glasses Mad-Eye had given her.
Athena nodded emphatically. “Raises a few questions.”
“That don’t need answering.”
“Exactly. You’re going by Thestral, right?”
“Yeah, with Kingsley. You’re with your dad?”
“Of course. He wouldn’t let me go otherwise.”
“You don’t think we’ll run into Death Eaters tonight, do you?” Hermione asked worriedly.
“Of course we will,” Athena replied matter-of-factly. “There’ll be at least a few floating around, but as long as the false trail has gone out, they won’t have everyone in the clouds waiting to ambush us.”
Hermione didn’t look too comforted by this. “How can you be so calm?”
Athena shrugged. “I don’t know. You’ve fought Death Eaters more than I have, and you didn’t end up half-dead on the floor of Hogwarts last time you did, so logically speaking, you should be the calm one and I should be freaking out.”
“You weren’t half-dead.”
“No, you’re right,” she agreed. “I was three-quarters dead.”
“Stop gossiping and lets get moving!” Mad-Eye bellowed in their direction.
“Stick close to me,” Carcius warned Athena as they kicked off into the air. “It’s too still out there. Makes me nervous.”
“Right.” She couldn’t share in his apprehension, feeling a confidence she could only attribute to the Felix Felicis. The sleepless night was beginning to catch up with her, though, and she felt a twinge of anxiety at the thought that if they were attacked, her defences would be compromised because of it. Instantly she began scanning the area more intently, gripping her wand with one hand, and—
“Dad,” she said in a low voice, “Over there, in the clouds.”
At that moment, the heavens erupted in flashes of light and yelling voices. Out of nowhere dark shapes whizzed towards them, surrounding them, scattering the Order members.
“Fly!” Carcius bellowed, wheeling his broom around and tearing through the darkness. Athena followed him, ducking sharply as a jet of green light shot past her and flinging a curse over her shoulder. She had no idea whether it hit, not daring to look back as she followed her father. Curse after curse was flung her way as she ducked, swerved and blocked, no longer able to tell where she was or which direction she was going. Only the glowing tail of her father’s broomstick ahead told her she was going the right way.
“It’s the real Potter!” she heard a voice yell. “He can fly, it’s the real Potter!”
She sped up, spinning as she plummeted downwards. When a glance over her shoulder told her the Death Eaters had mimicked her descent she pulled the broom upwards as sharply as possible—a move she had perfected on the pitch last year—and shot upwards again, watching as the Death Eaters pursuing her spun out of control and fell to the ground below.
What seemed like seconds later she ploughed through the defences surrounding Selwyn House and landed haphazardly in the courtyard.
“You’re alive!” Lucinda cried, running out of the house with Artemis close on her heels.
“Yes,” Athena observed. “Yes, I am indeed.”
“We were ambushed,” Carcius said tiredly, sending the brooms back into the old stable on the opposide side of the courtyard. “I have no idea who got out safely.”
“You’ll soon find out,” Lucinda said, holding out an old iron. “This leaves in twenty seconds.”
“Who’s back?” Athena asked immediately upon arriving at the Burrow.
“Only Harry and Hagrid are back so far,” Ginny replied anxiously. “Poor Harry – Hedwig’s been killed.”
“Hedwig? As in his owl? What happened to her?”
“I don’t know. Did you see anything of the others, Athena?”
She shook her head. “Dad and I were out of there pretty quick. We had a few tailing us, but they crashed to their deaths.”
“Has anyone missed their Portkeys?” Carcius asked Molly.
She nodded. “Ron and Tonks…Fred and Arthur…”
A knot tightened in Athena’s stomach. No, just because they had missed their Portkeys didn’t mean anything. The timing hadn’t allowed for an ambush and resulting battle, it was inevitable some of them would be missed.
She glanced at Ginny, feeling a rush of sympathy. It was all right for her, she didn’t have family out there in the clouds, but Ginny had three brothers and a dad who hadn’t come home yet. Knowing words would be useless, Athena simply joined her in her silent vigil in the yard.
Remus and George appeared, the glow of the Portkey revealing George’s bloodied face in garish detail.
“Mum!” Ginny shrieked, and in seconds a crowd of people were crowded around him, carring him into the sitting room and laying him down on a couch. Remus, eyes blazing with purpose, dragged Harry and Athena into the kitchen, pointing his wand at Harry and asking him what Athena supposed was a security question. Apparently satisfied with his answer, he turned on her.
“What was Athena Selwyn’s Boggart in third year Defence Against the Dark Arts?” he demanded.
“The Imperius Curse,” she replied coolly. “I would appreciate it if you removed your wand from my face.”
“We’ve been betrayed,” he said simply, turning on his heel to interrogate Carcius. “What was the name of your brother?”
Athena sucked in her breath. All she knew of her estranged uncle was that he had become a Death Eater, and her father never spoke of him.
“Antigonus Selwyn,” Carcius replied heavily. “I hope you have a good reason for dredging up that kind of thing.”
Athena Kahlan Antigone Selwyn.
She wasn’t sure whether that answered old questions or asked new ones. But there were more pressing matters than the reasons behind her name at this point.
Hermione, accompanied by Kingley Shacklebolt, was the next to return and Athena, not prone to displays of affection, nevertheless threw her arms around her friend in relief.
“Is Ron back?” Hermione asked anxiously, having hugged Harry.
Ginny shook her head, and Hermione bit her lip, pacing up and down the yard.
Athena maintained her vigil with the other teenagers as the rest of the Order slowly trickled in. Unable to stop herself, she hugged Fred when he came through the door, and it flashed across her mind that he held her longer and tighter than he should have.
She stepped back, embarrassed, and instantly melted into the shadows in the corners of the room. Would it be like this forever? She walked briskly back outside, not wanting to face the questions lingering in the air inside. Eyes trained on the sky above, she hugged her knees and tried to make sense of everything.
Things had happened fast last year, she couldn’t deny that. Maybe it was because from the beginning, she knew things wouldn’t work out with Fred Weasley. They were fine in the summer holidays, when he had bribed George to work extra hours so he could spend time with her, and she helped them with the shop, and the gulf of differences between them wasn’t so obvious.
She wasn’t used to his openness; he wasn’t used to her distance. He tried to understand her, understand the motivations behind what she did and the reasons why she kept him at arm’s length, until she decided she couldn’t make him try anymore. It was their first Hogsmeade weekend, in October. She’d met him at the Three Broomsticks, but instead of staying there, they’d walked around the village while she talked. She hadn’t allowed him to speak, but the fact that he hadn’t tried told her that every word she said rang true. When she’d walked away from him that afternoon, she’d had every intention of steering clear of any romantic involvement for the rest of her time at Hogwarts.
She hadn’t counted on Cassian.
Cassian, Head Boy and Captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team, had begun talking to her after they were both selected for the Slug Club. There was something in his dignified, self-assured manner that had attracted her to him from the start, but for that reason she rejected any advances he made, to the point she was deliberately and unneccessarily rude to him whenever he tried to talk to her. She didn’t know when the pattern of his polite inquiries and her testy responses had given way to debate and banter peppered with razor-sharp wit, but it wasn’t long before she began to look forward to their interaction. Being in Ravenclaw meant she’d never been short of intelligent conversation, but it was Cassian’s ability to sidestep her subtle methods of undermining her opponent that drew her attention. He was more than a match for her, and though she hadn’t spoken to him much at all before that, she felt as though he understood her – the first person she’d come across who did.
She was startled out of her reverie by the arrival of Bill, who swept past her without a word on his way into the house. Feeling a wave of dread, she followed him inside, stopping when she heard his words.
Carcius and Lucinda were silent that evening, sending Athena to bed as if she were a child.
“I’m part of the Order,” she said. “Whatever you want to talk about can be said in front of me.”
“Go to bed, Athena,” Carcius said tiredly. “Please.”
Not wanting to argue, she turned and left, nearly walking into Artemis in the hallway.
“What’s going on?” Artemis whispered.
“Moody’s dead,” she said briefly. By some unspoken agreement, she and Artemis crouched outside the door to listen to their parents.
“This is bad,” Carcius said heavily. “I don’t think…the others don’t realise…without Dumbledore and Mad-Eye, we’re nothing. The Order’s nothing.”
Athena and Artemis exchanged horrified glances. Their father was always the positive one – realistic, but positive. He would never give up on the Order, but to hear him talking like this…
“It’s only a matter of time, Carcius,” Lucinda said quietly. “The resistance is crumbling. The Ministry will fall. It’s a question of when, not if.”
“I know. Maybe…we should get the girls out. Send them to Beauxbatons.”
“Athena would never go. She’ll want to stay and fight.”
“She’ll be killed,” Carcius said flatly.
“She’s survived this long.”
“Barely,” Carcius replied, and Athena knew he was referring to the Battle of Astronomy Tower a few months ago where she’d nearly been killed by Dark magic.
“It’s too late,” Lucinda said. “We’re all in too deep, the Death Eaters will only ask questions if we send the girls to Beauxbatons. Their only hope is to keep their heads down and hope for the best.”
A/N: I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update this story, this chapter's been giving me a lot of trouble. Hopefully you can expect more regular updates from now. I love reviews, so let me know what you think!
“Athena!” Hermione called with a definite tone of relief as she arrived at the Burrow for Bill and Fleur’s wedding. “Thank God, we had to get away from Phle—Fleur.”
“She looks fucking gorgeous,” Ginny commented darkly. “We’re having a crisis of confidence. Hey, Artemis.”
“Hey,” Artemis echoed. “Is she that bad?”
“She’s worse,” Athena replied matter-of-factly. “She was the Beauxbatons champion for the Triwizard.”
“Oh, that bitch!”
Ginny nodded approvingly. “Where are your partners?”
Athena swung around, seeing Cassian and Perseus making a beeline for a beefy looking guy on the other side of the field. “There’s something wrong with that picture.”
“That’s Viktor,” Hermione explained.
“Oh. Makes sense.”
“Who’s Viktor?” Artemis asked.
“Ohhhh. A Quidditch dude.”
Athena and Ginny exchanged glances, shaking their heads.
“Ginny!” Molly hollered from the doorway of the Burrow. “You’re needed!”
Ginny gagged, seizing Hermione’s arm and dragging her inside with her.
“So, yeah,” Artemis began, “No offence, but I don’t want to be hanging out with you all day. Later.”
Cassian was still engaged in conversation with Viktor Krum; from the look of his impressive arm movements, serious manoeuvres and tactics were being discussed.
“Lot of hassle for one day, isn’t it?” Fred mused, coming to stand beside her.
“It is a bit.”
“I told George, when I get married, nobody wears dress robes, and I’m locking Mum up.”
“If you get married,” she countered.
“Hey,” he protested, “That was a bit harsh.”
She reached out a hand and patted him unsympathetically on the head. “My apologies.”
“That your boyfriend?” he asked, nodding at Cassian.
“Good. That’s good,” he said firmly. “He’s more your type, isn’t he?”
“One could say that, yeah.”
“We never would have worked out.”
“We’re too different.”
“Entirely, irrefutably different,” she agreed, staring resolutely ahead.
“None of that should have mattered.”
“No, you’re right. It shouldn’t have mattered. But it did and that’s life.”
“Do you love him?”
“With all my heart.”
“Did you love me?”
“You already know the answer to that question.”
“I’m not sure I do.”
“It. Doesn’t. Matter. Anymore.”
“That’s not true.”
“I think I’ll be the judge of that.”
“Was it deliberate?” he asked, staring at Cassian’s back. “Choosing a Slytherin?”
“You honestly think that little of me?” she asked icily. “You think that I would go out with anyone to get back at you, to prove a point, to be spiteful? You know better than anyone that the only reason I would ever enter a relationship is because of love, and that should give you the answer to all your questions.”
She strode away, melting almost instantly into the crowd.
The encounter with Fred had rattled her. She just wanted to forget, though she knew that wasn’t dealing with things rationally, and she hated being irrational. They had broken up. A year ago. And the thought that her heart had still skipped a beat when she heard his voice worried her. She didn’t love him anymore.
She loved Cassian.
She knew that. Seconds she spent with him turned to minutes, turned to hours, turned to days, and yet she could never be around him enough. He thought the same way as her. He understood her. He trusted her with his life—he was under Unbreakable Vow even now to not reveal her involvement in the Order, and he had volunteered. She loved Cassian to a point that it frightened her.
So what was going on with Fred? She sought out Tonks, who had been the closest thing to an older sister Athena had since she was eleven years old.
“I need some of your great wisdom.”
“My great wisdom?” Tonks repeated, looking amused. “You’re the Ravenclaw.”
“Tonks, who was your first love? I mean your first true love.”
Tonks blinked. “A guy called Christopher, why?”
“Do you ever think about him?”
“Yes, sometimes. True love is one of those things…it leaves traces. I love Remus with all my heart, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t get a funny feeling if I saw Chris in the street. You get over them, but you’ll always remember them. They’ll always mean something to you, because they were your first love. We’re women, Athena, it’s what we do. So, in answer to the question you’re really asking…just because you look at Fred and think what if doesn’t mean you love Cassian any less.”
“It’s frightening how you knew exactly what I was talking about.”
“Because you wanted me to,” Tonks said with a smile. “I never asked why you broke up with him. Fred, I mean. Obviously.”
“Not a conversation I want to have right now. We should go sit down, everyone else is.”
“But we will have this conversation,” Tonks said firmly.
“If you say so.”
“Merlin help me, I’m feeling sentimental,” Athena muttered, watching Bill and Fleur walk back down the aisle after the wedding. “And I don’t even know them.”
“Sentimental in what way?” Cassian asked.
“I don’t even know.”
Ginny came over, looking like she was sucking on lemons, and plopped into a chair beside them. “So that’s it,” she said gloomily. “I have a sister for the first time in my life, and it’s fucking Phlegm.”
“It could be worse,” Cassian said.
He glanced at Athena for support. “Uh…I actually don’t have any specific reasons, but I’m sure it could.”
Ginny huffed. “Oh well, she’s leaving soon anyway.”
“See, it could be worse,” Cassian said triumphantly. “She could be moving in.”
“Don’t. Even. Say. That.”
“Don’t even say what?” Harry asked as he came over, disguised as a ginger Muggle kid and with Ron and Hermione in tow.
“We’re just having a bitch about Phlegm,” Ginny said cheerfully.
“You’re not still going on about that?” Ron asked.
“Just because you’re in love with her,” Ginny shot back.
“I’m not in love with her,” Ron said, looking horrified. “That’s not true.”
“So,” Athena said pointedly. “You guys looking forward to getting back to Hogwarts?”
There was an awkward silence from Harry, Ron and Hermione.
“Not coming back then?”
They exchanged glances.
“Guess not,” Athena concluded. “Top secret?”
“I’ll leave you to it, then.”
“Hey, Athena,” Cassian began, tapping her on the shoulder, “I just saw a family friend I haven’t talked to for years, I should go talk to him. I’ll be back soon.”
She nodded absently and turned to Ginny.
“Did you know they’re not going back?”
“They sort of let slip,” Ginny admitted.
“Wish you were going with them?”
“More than anything. It just seems like we’re useless at Hogwarts, you know? What can we do there?”
“I know what you mean. I’m not looking forward to this year. I know everyone says seventh is the best year, but I honestly don’t think anyone’s going to be in the mood for fun.”
“Do you think Dumbledore’s Army could do anything?”
“I have no idea what. Restart it as a DADA group? There’ll be a need for it.”
“We could even do it in the open. I’m sure McGonagall would be open to the idea.”
“She’s staying on as headmistress then?”
“Well, who else would there be?” Ginny reasoned. “Ugh, I see my brothers are getting friendly with Fleur’s cousins.”
Athena turned her gaze pointedly away, immediately distracted by something else.
“Why is Cassian talking to my father?”
Ginny glanced over. “No idea. So they get along all right then? I know you were worried about that.”
“Well, they look civil enough. What I want to know is why he told me he was going to talk to a family friend when he wasn’t.”
“Your dad probably stopped him on his way over,” Ginny said reasonably. “Give him the if-you-hurt-my-daughter-I’m-head-of-the-Auror-Office talk.”
“That sounds just like him,” she agreed, noting the look on her father’s face. “Reckon they’ll run the Quidditch this year?”
“I hope so,” Ginny said emphatically. “Keep our minds off…other stuff.”
“Do you think you stand a chance without Harry in the team?”
“Well,” Ginny said thoughtfully, “In the final last year, Harry was in detention, so he wasn’t playing, and…what happened…let’s see if I can remember…Oh yeah, we kicked your arse.”
That moment was still a sore point for Athena. “Don’t remind me. You won’t get away with that this year though. I’ll make the team train even harder than last year.”
Ginny sniggered. “You’re a seventh-year,” she pointed out calmly. “A seventh-year Ravenclaw. You’ll be so busy studying you’d be lucky to make it to the games.”
“My team can train at midnight,” she replied.
“No, they won’t,” Nathaniel declared, strolling up to them and resting an arm on Athena’s shoulder. “You get your team to train at midnight, your team will murder you in your sleep. Promise.”
“If she sleeps,” Ginny interjected.
“I’m a Potions extraordinaire,” he replied pompously. “Even more so than your Slytherin boy over there. I could slip you a sleeping potion and you wouldn’t even know the difference.”
“Who are you kidding?” Athena asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh yeah,” Nathaniel said. “You’re paranoid.”
“Better paranoid than dead.”
“Well, aren’t you all sunshine and roses today?”
“Oh, go snog Katya.”
“Maybe I will.” He departed, leaving Athena shaking her head.
“Ginny,” Cassian said conversationally, walking back to join them. “There’s a Muggle village down the road, right?”
“Yeah, Ottery St Catchpole. Why?”
“I’ve never really seen one. Come for a walk, Athena?”
“Sure,” she agreed immediately. There wasn’t a lot happening now; a number of couples were dancing but she had no desire to. Getting away from the crowd to spend time with Cassian was definitely an idea that held some appeal.
Cassian was strangely silent as they walked along the grass verge of the road into Ottery St Catchpole. Athena didn’t know whether to ask if he was okay or not; he would be aware she had noticed his silence, and if he wanted to talk, he would do it without prompting.
Cassian was nervous. He glanced around the village, trying not to let Athena notice. He felt incredibly self-conscious; surely the Muggles would look at him strangely. He was in robes for Merlin’s sake. And the last thing he wanted or needed was people watching him. He’d been silent too long. Athena would have noticed something. He cast his eyes desperately around, gaze alighting on the old stone clock tower standing in the middle of a park.
“A clock tower!” he announced. That sounded forced. Forced, and ridiculous. “A real Muggle clock tower, I wonder how old it is? Muggle stuff actually shows its age, you know. You can literally see the impact of the years.” That was better. That was more like him. He forced his inner historian to take over as he loped across the road to see it. He hadn’t been this nervous for his job interview, for his NEWT results, even for sitting the exams themselves. Why couldn’t he act normally? Athena could read the emotions of total strangers, and part of him wished she would ask him what the heck was wrong with him so he could ask her and get it over and done with.
Athena obligingly brushed her hand against the rough stone of the clocktower, watching Cassian as he walked around it, searching for the date it was built. It was normal behaviour for him, but he wasn’t acting normally. He seemed jumpy, trying too hard to convince her there was nothing out of the ordinary.
“Athena?” His voice came from behind the tower. “Come and have a look at this.”
He had found the date, then. Her curiousity mildly aroused—she was interested in history, sure, but she didn’t live and breathe it the way Cassian did—she walked around the corner to find him. He was down on one knee and, upon seeing her, reached out to take her hands in his.
“Athena,” he began. “You are my…world, and everything in it. I love you, more than even I can comprehend. I want to stand with you through the darkest of days ahead and whatever may follow…not as your boyfriend, but something more…eternal. Will you marry me?”
She couldn’t believe it. She could, but she couldn’t. She was seventeen, for Merlin’s sake—marriage? Now? In the near future? She still had a year of Hogwarts left…but through the reason came another, stronger voice. Yes. Yes, she wanted to marry him, be with him, more than she wanted some semblance of normal social order. They were at war. They could be killed in a year’s time, six months’ time. She didn’t want any regrets. Life and love was what mattered, and Cassian was both.
“Yes, really.” She grinned, pulling him to his feet and kissing him. His arms wrapped around her, making her forget about the war and everything else. For once, everything was perfect.
He drew away from her, feeling like the luckiest man in the world. He couldn’t believe he had asked her, and that she had said yes. She was only seventeen. He was only eighteen. But the war had forced them to grow up so much in the last two years that he sometimes forgot he was under twenty-five.
He reached inside the pocket of his robes and pulled out the little box he had hidden there.
“A ring?” she whispered, looking awed.
She did, her jaw dropping at the sight of the goblin-made silver ring inside, inlaid with three glittering sapphires.
“I knew blue and silver were your favourite colours,” he said, fidgeting with the sleeve of his robes. “And I thought, they’re symbolic, in a way. You know. House colours. Your blue, my silver.”
“Put it on?” she asked quietly, holding out her hand. Barely believing what he was doing, Cassian took the ring and slipped it onto her finger. She seemed lost in thought for a moment, staring at it, before wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him.
“When?” Athena asked, breaking the comfortable silence as they walked back to the Burrow.
“I don’t know. Your dad was adamant you finish Hogwarts first—”
“You talked to my dad?”
“Well, I had to ask his permission, didn’t I? Especially considering he doesn’t like me.”
“And he gave it?”
“So, timing,” she continued, returning to something that made sense. “The day after I finish Hogwarts?”
“Well, it’s up to you—”
“Good. So, day after I finish, then. Glad we’ve got that sorted.”
“Yes, absolutely.” He seemed to still be struggling to believe she had actually said yes. She didn’t blame him. She was struggling to believe it herself. Seventeen.
“So how many people knew before me?” Athena asked conversationally.
“Uh, me. Your dad. Nathaniel.”
“It would be a lot easier if you had a best girl friend,” he continued. “He wasn’t much help when it came to choosing the ring. Though he did tell me your favourite colour was blue.”
“You asked him for help?”
“Who else would I ask?” he asked defensively. “Your sister? The whole wizarding world would know before you did.”
“She wouldn’t be much help anyway,” she conceded. “By that I mean less help than Nathaniel. So what happens now?”
“We go back to the wedding. Between here and the Burrow, we decide whether we want to steal the happy couple’s thunder by announcing it, or systematically go around telling family. Mine doesn’t know, by the way. Not even Evelina.”
“Tempting as it is to steal their thunder,” Athena began regretfully, “Most of the people at that wedding don’t know or care about us. I’ll track down Mum as soon as we get back.”
“Let the fun begin.”
“So I’m getting married,” Athena declared casually, slinging an arm around Lucinda’s shoulders.
“Getting married,” she repeated, waggling her fingers and showing off the ring.
“I’m aware of that, strangely enough.”
“You can’t get married at seventeen!”
“I won’t be, I’ll be eighteen.”
“Eighteen!” Lucinda repeated in disbelief, her eagle eyes zeroing in on Cassian several metres away, trying to act casual. “You!”
“Stop lurking and get over here, young man!”
Eyes firmly fixated on the grass, Cassian scuttled forward.
“He’s terrified,” Lucinda whispered to Athena with a definite hint of glee in her voice. “I’ve always wanted to do this.”
“You want to marry my daughter?” she asked him sternly.
“I think it’s worth noting she wants to marry me too.”
Ten points to Slytherin…
“You don’t think you’re too young?” she asked pointedly. “Here’s a hint: I do.”
“Go back a hundred years and ours was the standard age to get married. Go back two or three hundred years and we would have been old. Unless we’ve become more immature over the generations, the question of age is entirely irrelevant.”
Twenty points to Slytherin…
“Society has changed.”
“Touche,” Lucinda said at last. “You argue your point well. I’ll have intelligent grandchildren.”
“Right…well…Glad we’ve…cleared that up…we should go to my parents’…” Cassian made his escape, Athena following close behind.
“Wait. I need to tell my sister.”
“Right. Of course.”
Athena peered through the gloom of the darkening evening, looking for Artemis’ distinctive waist-length blonde hair. There she was, in a corner—attached by the face to Perseus Samuels.
“Artemis. Aaaartemiiiiiis. Artemis Rachel Ismene Selwyyyyyn.”
“What?” Artemis finally barked.
“Just thought I’d let you know that a) you’re in public, and b)—” She held up her hand.
“What? What am I looking at? Is that a—OHMERLINYOU’REKIDDING!” she shrieked, bounding over and seizing Athena’s hand.
“Ow!” she protested. “That’s attached.”
Artemis ignored her, inspecting the ring. “It’s so pretty and sparkly and shiny and pretty oh Merlin are you serious are you actually like you know?”
“You haven’t answered my question!”
“That wasn't in any way an intelligent question but we’re engaged, yes.”
“Eeeeeee!” Artemis shrieked again, hugging Athena. “That’s so exciting! And cute and adorable and romantic and can I be bridesmaid pretty pretty please?”
“If you get off me first.”
She leapt back. “So when is it?”
“Day after I finish Hogwarts.”
“Oh, that’s ages away!”
“Yes. And you have to take me shopping for your dress and you have to—”
“All right,” Athena said, cutting her off. “We’re going to go to Cassian’s now, have…fun.”
“You’re back early,” Rhiannon greeted them. “And you brought Athena back with you.”
“We have news.”
“News?” Rhiannon’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of news?”
“We’ll tell you when Dad and Evelina are here.”
They made their way into the sitting room, Cassian and Athena hovering in the middle of the room while the rest of the family was located and seated.
“So, what’s this about then?” Rhiannon asked.
“I proposed,” Cassian said matter-of-factly. “She said yes.”
Evelina’s shriek was, if possible, louder than Artemis’ as she leapt from her seat and engulfed the pair of them in a bear hug.
Rhiannon, normally cool and composed, was brushing a tear from her eye as she stepped forward to embrace Cassian.
“I’m so proud of you,” she managed. “And Athena, I couldn’t think of anyone better.”
“Good for you, son,” Labdacus said with a nod, clapping Cassian on the back before striding out of the room.
“Men,” Rhiannon said with a roll of her eyes, quickly trotting after him.
They had been at Rutherford Manor twenty minutes when a large silvery mare appeared through the wall and galloped into the centre of the room.
“Come home now,” Lucinda’s voice said urgently. “Don’t go to the Burrow. Come home immediately.”
“You’re not in trouble are you, love?” Rhiannon asked, looking concerned.
“No. There’s something wrong, something’s happened—” Fighting her sense of panic, Athena strode briskly out the door of Rutherford Manor and down the long driveway, leaving Cassian scrambling to catch up.
“I’ll owl you,” she told him as she pulled open the gate. “As soon as I get the chance.”' Before he had a chance to reply she had Disapparated, leaving behind only the unnerving worry in her voice.
It was always going to be like this, he realised. He was detached from the war; as detached as one could be under the circumstances. She, on the other hand, was in the thick of it, and his very being raged against the concept of letting her risk her life. It was meant to be the other way around. History told him it was the other way around. He should be fighting to keep her safe; instead, it was she who fought Death Eaters when they invaded Hogwarts, and he who was left to drag her, unconscious, away from the battle. It was she who went on an unknown mission for the Order, and all he could do was brew her a potion and hope for the best.
Every time she left, he found himself asking whether he would ever see her again. He never wanted her to leave.
Just in case.
“What’s going on?” Athena asked.
She was met with silence. Her father was seated on an armchair beside the window, staring intently at the clasped hands in his lap. Lucinda, who had been pacing back and forth with one hand covering her mouth, stopped abruptly, realised who it was and resumed her pacing.
It was Carcius who answered. “Artemis is missing.”
“The Ministry has fallen,” Lucinda said finally, her voice wavering. “The Death Eaters came. They attacked us. We were fighting—we couldn’t Apparate her out. We don’t know where she is.”
Tears were falling down her face, a sight that alarmed Athena more than her words ever would. Lucinda was like her; infinitely in control, never, ever showing emotion. In her seventeen years, Athena had never seen her cry.
“She might be at the Samuels’,” she suggested.
Lucinda shook her head resolutely. “She was there with Perseus, and he’s only fifteen, he can’t Apparate.”
“The Weasleys?” she asked.
“We’ve already contacted them.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“We had about thirty seconds warning,” Carcius began. “Kingsley Shacklebolt sent his Patronus warning us the Ministry had fallen, Scrimgeour was dead—”
“Dead,” Carcius confirmed. “The Death Eaters arrived shortly afterward, throwing curses everywhere, turning the place upside down. They were looking for Harry. They didn’t find him, but they interrogated us all. And somewhere in the midst of that, we lost Artemis.”
“Lost,” Lucinda echoed.
“Honey, she’ll turn up.”
“You don’t know that!” she wailed, getting up from the seat she had temporarily taken and resuming her pacing. “We don’t know where she is or who she’s with—”
“She could be with the Lovegoods,” Athena suggested. “It makes sense. They live near the Burrow, don’t they?”
“It’s possible,” Carcius agreed.
There was a loud thud against the window and Athena let the family owl, Socrates, into the house, taking the roll of parchment from his leg.
“I was right,” she reported. “Artemis is at the Lovegoods’. Luna says she’s welcome to stay for dinner but if you want her home now, go to their house and get her because their Floo’s closed off.”
It was Socrates who woke Athena two days later, by once again smacking into the kitchen window. Hogwarts letters, she realised as she let him in. What would Hogwarts be like, with the Death Eaters in control of the Ministry? She took the parchments from Socrates, carelessly throwing away Artemis’ book list and scanning her own.
Dark Arts was listed as a subject. A compulsory one. She felt a shiver run down her spine, quickly turning her attention away from the list and onto the small note tucked in behind it.
You have been nominated and selected as Head Girl of Hogwarts for the 1997-1998 school year. You and the Head Boy will attend a meeting with me in the Prefects’ Carriage prior to departure on the Hogwarts Express on September 1.
Professor Severus Snape, Headmaster.
“Da-ad!” she called, bolting into the study. Carcius looked up in alarm.
“Snape’s Headmaster,” she said, sliding the parchment across his desk. “He’s Headmaster, and he knows the identity of every single member of the Order. Including me. And I’m going to be at Hogwarts this year.”
“Don’t go,” Carcius said immediately, taking the parchment and in turn handing her the latest edition of the Daily Prophet. A large portion of the second page was dedicated to Hogwarts notices, including, Athena noted with sinking heart—Attendance of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is compulsory for ALL witches and wizards of a suitable age; that being between the ages of eleven and seventeen as of 1 September 1997. All incidences of non-attendance will be thoroughly investigated by Ministry officials.
“We can make excuses for you,” Carcius said. “So long as Snape hasn’t told the whole Ministry of your involvement, we can put you on an exchange programme to another school—I was thinking Beauxbatons—and get you out of the country—”
“I’m Head Girl,” Athena said flatly.
Carcius was silent.
“He’s trapped you.”
Athena stared at the carpet, unwilling to see the distress on her father’s face. They had always been close, much closer than Athena and Lucinda had ever been. Carcius had dedicated his life to keeping her safe, and it killed him that the one time he wasn’t around, the night at Hogwarts when the Death Eaters invaded, Athena had been wounded in battle and nearly died. She would have, if it wasn’t for Cassian, and despite Carcius’ intrinsic desire to distrust that Slytherin boy, he knew she was only alive now because of him.
And now, he was facing losing her for real, because of Severus Snape.
“Damn that man,” he said in a low voice. “Damn him to hell and back.”
A/N: I have exams this month. Very important exams. So this will be my last update of this story until at least the end of November. Please leave a review, and I apologise for the lack of updates from now.
“Good morning, please state your name and business.”
“I need to talk to Cassian,” Athena told the wrought-iron gate, not bothering with pleasantries.
“Certainly, Athena. We need to sort out direct access for you—come in.”
The gates swung open, and Athena bolted for Rutherford Manor, throwing dignity to the wind as she ploughed through the heavy double doors and pounded up the stairs to Cassian’s room before Rhiannon had a chance to greet her.
“Athena…What’s wrong?” Cassian asked, startled, as she burst into his room, an expression of pure panic on her face.
His fears were compounded as she shook her head, instead crossing the room and burying her head in his chest. Trying to stay calm, he wrapped his arms around her, holding her and trying to tell himself it couldn’t possibly be that bad.
But he knew. He knew it took a lot to upset Athena, and even more to scare her.
“Can you tell me?” he asked at last.
“Snape’s Headmaster,” she whispered into his robes. “He’s a loyal Death Eater and he knows all the Order’s secrets, and there’s a death sentence on all our heads. All the Order. He knows I’m in it. He was there at my initiation.”
He felt his stomach drop like a stone. “Don’t go back. Please don’t go back. You’re not safe.”
“They’ve made me Head Girl. I have no choice.”
“He wouldn’t kill you,” Cassian said firmly. “He wouldn’t. I know him. He was my Head of House. He wouldn’t kill a student.”
“He killed Dumbledore,” she reminded him flatly.
“He. Wouldn’t. Kill. You.”
“You don’t know that.” She pulled away, furiously wiping the beginnings of tears from her eyes. “I’ll be in the grip of the enemy, Cass. And I don’t know if I’ll survive it.”
“You will,” he said fiercely. “Look at me, Athena. You’ll survive. You’re an Occlumens. You’re from an old pureblood family. All you have to do is play the game.”
Diagon Alley wasn’t the same when Athena and her family went there to pick up school supplies, though if she was honest, Diagon Alley hadn’t been the same since You Know Who came out into the open at the end of her fifth year. There was no happy chatter and people were constantly looking over their shoulders. She saw countless parents stocking up on Hogwarts supplies with no child in sight, too fearful of taking them out into the open. The few students who were around were either sixth or seventh years, and none were wearing Muggle clothes; normally the Muggleborn or half-blood students wore them, especially in the summer holidays. She felt as though her entire world had changed overnight.
She bought her stuff as quickly as possible, calling in to Madam Malkin’s with her Head Girl letter. She and the Head Boy – whoever he was – got the collar of their robes trimmed in house colours to differentiate between them and the other Prefects – or indeed the other students. Although Athena had wanted to be Head Girl for years, now that it had actually happened she wished she hadn’t been chosen. She was going to be so much more conspicuous now, and with the danger she was facing, she would much prefer to be invisible.
She got the feeling Cassian would much prefer if she was invisible too. On second thought, Cassian would much prefer if she dropped out of Hogwarts and they immigrated to Italy and lived as Muggles. Apparently they were going to Italy on their honeymoon; he had a burning, unshakable desire to see the Colosseum and other Muggle Roman monuments. He was the biggest nerd she’d ever met, and she’d been in Ravenclaw for six years.
The atmosphere on Platform 9¾ was different to what she’d ever known it to be. There was no buzz of excitement, not even from first years; she could almost feel the apprehension emanating from students and parents as they reluctantly said their farewells.
“Study hard, stay safe,” Lucinda recited, as she did each year, but this time her final words had more weight. Stay safe. Athena had no idea how she could do that.
“Good luck,” Carcius said quietly, and Athena knew he wasn’t referring to her schoolwork. As he pulled her in closer for a hug, he whispered in her ear, “We’re just a Patronus message away. We’ll get you out if you need to get out. I promise.”
She felt a shiver run down her spine at that thought – we’ll get you out – and the reality of the world she was going into began to dawn on her. Nodding and forcing a courage she didn’t feel, she found Cassian, who was accompanying Evelina while their parents were at work, and waited while he farewelled his sister.
He looked over at her, his eyes saying what his words wouldn’t. Silently she stepped forward, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him. As if it was the last time she would ever see him. The last time he would ever hold her.
Maybe it was.
She heard the whistle of the train behind her and reluctantly pulled away from him, walking towards the Prefects’ Carriage without a backward glance; knowing if she turned around, she would never leave.
Professor Snape was the teacher on duty in the Hogwarts Express, with a small carriage to himself in front of the Prefects’ Carriage. He emerged to brief the Prefects on their duties – to enforce school rules, establish order within the school community and to report any transgressions to appropriate staff. It was the same speech given to the Prefects each year, and Athena paid it little heed – until she heard the final instruction.
“Any students who disagree with the Ministry or express their support for Undesirable Number One, Harry Potter, or the organisation ‘Order of the Phoenix’ will be punished. Prefects are expected to inform myself or those in charge of discipline, Professors Alecto and Amycus Carrow, if they hear any students expressing such views. Prefects who hold and express such views will face severe consequences that, let me assure you, will fit the crime of treason. You are dismissed. The Head Prefects are required to stay in the carriage for the duration of the journey.”
Nathaniel gave her a sympathetic glance as he trailed off to find their friends in the other carriages, and Athena was left with Draco Malfoy in his new green-and-silver trimmed robes, the contemptuous sneer gone from his face.
“Selwyn,” he said curtly.
“Malfoy.” She had never gotten along with Draco, and he had certainly been less than civil to her in fifth year when he discovered she was part of Dumbledore’s Army, but as a pureblood and a Ravenclaw, she had earned his grudging tolerance, if not respect.
“Miss Selwyn,” Snape called quietly from the doorway to his carriage. “A word.”
She followed him into the carriage, trying to calm her nerves as he slammed the door shut with a flick of his wand and soundproofed the room.
“Sit,” he said, not bothering to look at her.
She sat, resisting the urge to tap her feet or twist her hands in her lap. He was as observant as her when it came to reading people, and she had no desire to show fear. One thing she had learned in the last six years of having Snape as a teacher was that he was contemptuous of both fear and incompetence.
“I will not insult your intelligence,” he began. “You are naturally aware that any student found to be involved in the Order of the Phoenix – or indeed anyone at all who the Ministry has access to – will be executed. You are also aware of my knowledge of your involvement in said Order.”
“Do you have anything to say on the matter?”
“You’ve summarised it quite well, sir.”
He turned to her, his black eyes boring into her blue ones, but she didn’t flinch under his steely gaze.
“I will not implicate you,” he said, stepping closer and dropping his voice. He was speaking faster, more urgently. “I care not what your impressions are of me or however you may debate the point, but as Headmaster of this school my first duty is to the students. Do not misunderstand me on this matter. I will not fight your battles for you. I will not defend you from the Carrows, nor will I defend any other student. I will not attempt to intervene in matters of discipline, no matter what students they involve or what punishments. I will not stand in the Carrows’ way. They are Death Eaters, which should indicate what they are capable of. Do not cross them. Do not think of crossing them. But one thing I will offer, Miss Selwyn. The Death Eaters, the Ministry and the Dark Lord will not know of your involvement in the Order.”
“Thank you,” she said quietly.
Hogwarts had changed. Athena never thought she would miss the sound of giggling, gossiping girls swarming through the corridors, or obnoxious boys shouting suggestive comments at her through classroom doors. But she did. Hogwarts was lifeless, silent, sterile. Without the careless chatter of a thousand teenagers, the stone walls and flickering torches looked sinister, imposing. She felt imprisoned, and she wasn’t the only one.
“Good evening and welcome to Azkaban,” Lydia Moody said in a toneless voice when the seventh-year Ravenclaw girls met in their dorm that night.
Cassiopeia Green shivered. “Feels like that, doesn’t it?”
Jessica Ainsworth, usually full of gossip, didn’t say a word; just climbed into bed and drew the curtains around her.
“Her dad’s Muggleborn,” Lisa Turpin whispered. “He’s gone into hiding. France. She doesn’t know when she’ll see him again.”
“I wish I could go into hiding,” Padma Patil muttered. “We spent the summer in India with my grandparents, but they would have hunted us down if we’d stayed.”
“I don’t think any of us want to be here,” Lydia said flatly. “Considering one of our teachers could have been the one who killed my uncle.”
In the silence that followed, Athena glanced around the common room. Though their year as a whole, born in the final years of the First Wizarding War, was a small one, the Ravenclaw girls were a big group by comparison. Normally there were eight, but Mandy Brocklehurst and Morag MacDougal were both Muggleborns. Their beds lay empty, an almost haunting reminder of the world they now lived in.
Nobody asked what had happened to them; whether they were in hiding or had been found by Death Eaters. They were afraid of the answers.
In sixth year, Athena had hated Transfiguration. She battled with it constantly; struggling to maintain even an Exceeds Expectations average when for her other subjects she was at Outstanding. But this year, walking into Transfiguration was a relief beyond any she’d ever known. Professor McGonagall was a member of the Order, and while Athena had never been particularly close to the stern elderly woman, her presence was strangely comforting. Charms, also, was a favourite. While Flitwick wasn’t part of the Order, he had been friends with Dumbledore since they were schoolboys and she knew he was loyal to Dumbledore through and through. That, and he was both her teacher and her Head of House, and the teacher who took the most interest in her education and general wellbeing. Flitwick was like that, though. He took an almost grandfatherly interest in all his Ravenclaws.
Muggle Studies had been taken over by Alecto Carrow, the curriculum one designed exclusively to foster intolerance and hatred. Ancient Runes texts were chosen to show the brutality of Muggles against early wizards; the History of Magic course had been altered; Dark Arts was a compulsory subject. In addition, two days into the year the students were handed out pieces of parchment detailing the Ministry’s new ‘Magic is Might’ movement.
MAGIC IS MIGHT: The New State of Wizarding Britain
The Ministry of Magic has undergone massive changes of management and policy. We have done so to create a better life and a better world for witches and wizards, free from the oppression of Muggles. History has taught us that Muggles, since the beginning of time, have persecuted, tortured and oppressed innocent witches and wizards out of sheer ignorance and hatred. The British Ministry of Magic is dedicated to being the first nation in overthrowing the travesty that is the International Statute of Secrecy which calls us to live in secret and shame. These implementations begin at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, which has recently banned enrolments from Muggle-born “wizards.” Under a carefully prepared new curriculum, students will be taught to value their magic, to learn new ways of putting it to use, and will learn about the injustices of the past that we believe every witch and wizard should be aware of. Strict measures will be put in place at Hogwarts School to begin with, to ensure false information is not getting through to the students and affecting their judgement.
“Propaganda!” Athena shouted before she could consider the sensibility of what she was doing. “Blatant propaganda!”
A hush descended over the Great Hall, and she felt her knees go weak as she saw the Carrows approaching, menace written across their ruddy faces.
Snape Silenced her from across the hall, striding towards her with robes billowing and a look that could freeze Fiendfyre. “My office, now,” he said in a clipped voice, and Nathaniel threw her a frightened glance as she followed him.
“I should have left you to the Carrows,” he said icily once he had shut them in his office, “But I thought it might be more prudent to explain the situation you are in more comprehensively, as you haven’t seemed to have grasped it. You have influence in this school, Athena Selwyn. That’s why you are Head Girl. And if you entertained thoughts of using that influence to conduct some sort of student uprising, let me explain why that would be an incredibly stupid thing to do.”
“Because you would kill me?” she asked sardonically.
“I wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t stop others,” he said, and a shiver ran down her spine at his words. He meant them.
“It makes no difference to me what happens to you,” Snape continued. “If you choose to rebel, you are choosing to subject yourself to the Cruciatus Curse and whatever other punishments the Carrows may send your way. My issue is when younger students copy your example, as younger students are wont to do with figures of authority, they will be punished, without making their own decisions to suffer for the…cause. I told you that my first duty is to the students of this school. I also told you that I will not intercede for anyone if they incur the wrath of the Carrows. Therefore, I’m asking you to model behavior that will not see your peers or those younger than you tortured. Is that a fair request?”
“I can’t agree with this,” she said simply, throwing the Magic Is Might parchment on his desk.
“You don’t have to agree with it,” he said, a touch of impatience in his voice. “Just don’t voice your disagreement. Or is that an impossible task? If so, Pansy Parkinson will take your place as Head Girl.”
“It’s not an impossible task,” she said resolutely, thinking of Cassian’s words. Play the game.
Staying silent was impossible for Athena, but she resolved to be more subtle about it, and put this into practice in Muggle Studies. She would question the material, but in a genuine inquiring manner rather than a confrontational one, and her class would turn it into a discussion. While Alecto Carrow hated it, her own experience of Ravenclaws during her Hogwarts days told her they always debated ideas, and when the Slytherins in the class began joining in, she convinced herself that the redhaired Head Girl was just being a typical Ravenclaw and Severus wouldn’t have appointed her if she was really a dissident.
For Athena’s eighteenth birthday in September her parents sent her an expensive quill set and Cassian gave her an owl necklace, both of which made it through the school’s mail screening systems with ease. Nathaniel and Artemis joined forces with Fred to smuggle some of her favourite Honeydukes chocolate into the castle, and she shared it with them in the Room of Requirement. She was surprised at Fred’s involvement in the scheme.
“Because he misses you, idiot,” Artemis said with a roll of her eyes.
“He wants to be friends,” Nathaniel explained, shooting an exasperated look at Artemis. “And let’s face it, we kind of all have to stick together with this stuff.”
Nathaniel had a point, and if she was honest she didn’t want things to be awkward with Fred forever; she still cared about him, and it would be nice to be mates again. She wrote him a brief message and owled it off to Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
Being in classes with Neville Longbottom, Athena knew his constant challenging of the Carrows would lead into something more serious and organised, so it came as no surprise to her when he pulled her aside and told her he would be reinstating Dumbledore’s Army.
“I’ve already spoken to Ginny and Luna,” he told her. “And I know there are a few more people who are interested, who we can trust. We don’t have Harry any more, so would you be able to teach us?”
“Neville,” she said carefully, “You know this is much, much bigger than fifth year, right?”
“Of course,” Neville replied impatiently. “I know what will happen if we get caught. But I’m not scared, and even if I was, that’s not a good enough reason not to resist.”
“You really are in the right house.”
Neville flushed with pride. “I never thought – I always thought the Hat made a mistake, you know? But yeah. I guess you’re right. Anyway, you’re in, right? When and where should we meet?”
She sighed, knowing there was no way out of this that would make her look good. “Neville…look. I really admire what you’re doing and I respect you for it, but…I can’t be a part of it this time. I’m sorry. It takes a braver person than me.”
“You’re in the Order of the Phoenix!” Neville protested.
Athena’s eyes widened as she stared furtively around the abandoned corridor. Leaving a slightly stunned looking Neville behind, she strode from one end to the other, casting homenum revelio every few feet and scanning the walls, floor and ceiling for anything that could be used to record or listen to their conversation. At last satisfied the corridor was clear, she returned.
“Don’t ever say that out loud,” she whispered, her fear at being discovered making her voice come out harsher than she’d intended. “Ever. That’s an automatic death sentence on my head, and that’s exactly why I can’t join Dumbledore’s Army. Do what you want, get caught, get punished. But I need to lay low, and my life depends on it.”
While the Death Eaters had done what they could to change the content of every subject at Hogwarts to a Death Eater-centric perspective, there was one subject they were unsuccessful in corrupting, one which, Athena noted with some satisfaction, would be among the most important for implementing the new ideas. To change the course of history would be the surest way to begin turning the minds of the people. But the Carrows hadn’t counted on one Professor Cuthbert Binns.
Only a small handful of students took History of Magic in seventh year – the Carrows had allowed it to remain an optional subject for seniors for the simple reason that it was compulsory up to fifth year, and it was much more important to indoctrinate the young ones before they formed their own belief systems. Traditionally, seventh years studied the Statute of Secrecy – which, judging by the Death Eaters’ Magic is Might propaganda, was meant to be presented as an oppressive piece of legislation forced upon witches and wizards by Muggles.
Knowing this, Athena wasn’t the only person to be surprised when Binns opened the first lesson with “This year we will be studying the Statute of Secrecy of 1692, the reasons for the signing, and the ways in which the Statute has allowed and encouraged progress in the wizarding world over the last two hundred years,” in his customary monotone. The fact that the book he was reading from was at least one hundred years old, and the way he presented the material as if in his sleep, lead the class to believe he had simply forgotten or was not aware of the changes to the course, and nobody was in any hurry to point out his mistake.
Three days later, Alecto Carrow walked in during Binns’ speech on one of the contributing factors of the signing of the Statute – ‘The Desire of Prejudiced Purebloods to Create an Exclusive Wizarding Society’ – and asked him what the hell he thought he was teaching.
“The curriculum,” Binns replied with a haughty voice.
“We have a new curriculum,” Alecto hissed.
“I read your notes on it,” Binns told her absently, “But I’m afraid you’ve got it completely the wrong way around. With all due respect, I have been teaching this subject since before the Carrow family came to Hogwarts as wide-eyed Muggleborns in 1735, and I know a thing or two more about it than whichever new lad you’ve got writing.”
Alecto grew red with rage. “How dare you!”
“Now, if you’re done,” Binns said, turning his attention back to his book, “I have a class to teach.”
“You will teach what we tell you to teach!”
Binns gave her a puzzled look. “Alecto, I do recall you had no passion or affinity for History – your OWL marks certainly reflected that – therefore I’d ask you to stick to what you know best, and leave me to mine.”
Alecto was utterly speechless, and hurled herself out of the classroom. Far down the corridor, Athena could hear her yelling, “Severus! The ghost!”
Binns gave no indication at all of having noticed anything out of the ordinary, and instead turned his attention back to the book in front of him. Outside, Alecto and Snape were having a heated conversation.
“There’s nothing I can do about the ghost, Alecto. He has been here for four hundred years, and yours is not the first attempt to have him fired. We cannot remove him from his post anymore than we can banish Peeves from the castle, which I assure you is something I would want more than anything.”
“There’s no use threatening me either, Professors,” Binns added, floating abruptly through the wall to join the conversation. “It would be a sorry state of affairs indeed if they had any effect on me. I am, after all, already dead.”
Finding a new respect for Binns, Athena wrote her notes with new relish. It was the most subtle method she had come across of resistance, but it gave her a glimmer of hope all the same, which, over the next few weeks, ignited into a flame.